The World’s End comes with some rather large baggage, namely the two previous movies in the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, two of the best comic films of this century. Added to which, just a few weeks ago saw the opening of a film littered with star names from America, all about an impending apocalypse, This Is The End which, while flawed, was certainly better than expected.
As it turns out, despite the title, The World’s End is less of a direct competitor to This Is The End than might have been thought. Not that that matters, seeing as it would trample that film into dirt, if that were a thing films could do. But it’s not so it doesn’t.
However, compared to its Cornetto predecessors World’s End does start from a position of weakness. Shaun of the Dead is telling a story that has been told hundreds of times before (witness the myriad films that end ‘of the Dead’) so it was always working from the basis of familiarity. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg subtly engineered it to have the scares required of it, hit all the familiar beats of the story and have laugh-a-minute jokes throughout. But so much of that worked because we were so familiar with the story.
Hot Fuzz is broadly the same, but instead of zombie movies at the heart it has the brash American action films, personified in Bad Boys 2. While the precise machinations of the story aren’t quite as set in stone as they are for a zombie movie, it’s a genre that is familiar enough to have a well-worn series of tropes to send up with a nicely British twist (ie by way of Midsomer Murders).
The problem World’s End has to face up to is that there isn’t the same kind of audience familiarity with body-snatcher movies and so it’s not as easy to send up (not that the other films were merely simple pastiches, just to say that the lack of familiarity is another barrier World’s End has to clamber over that the previous movies didn’t have). In fact, going in I was nervous that it wouldn’t be able to live up to the weight of history for precisely these reasons, and the fact that I was won over so wholeheartedly is testament to the writing, directing and acting (and everything else) that has gone into it.
Pegg plays Gary King, the ringleader of a group of kids who finished 6th form college 20 years ago. He wants to pull his group back together to finish the pub crawl they never completed when they finally completed college, but his whole group are reticent about the idea. They have moved on with their lives while Gary is still ‘living the dream’. Upon returning to Newton Haven, the town of their youth, it soon becomes clear there are strange things going on, something the group tries to fight back against while Gary tries to spur them on to complete the crawl.
There are two things that make the film such a success, and they are common with the collaborations that have gone before, as well as being completely entwined. Firstly, the strength of charactisation present. These are all fully realised people, with the word character almost being derogatory. You wholly buy into the people presented to you and every twist and turn in the story works perfectly because the decisions the characters make never feel false.
Secondly, the humour comes from the characters. Where This Is The End draws paper-thin personas for each of the leads and grants an opportunity for them to tell jokes, here the humour develops organically. The funny things people say are entirely in keeping with the characters that have been created, and those lines are both funny and move the plot on. This is a key element of the entire Cornetto trilogy and lays down a path that you wish all comedy films would follow. Far too often people say things that are funny or say things that are plot, and never the twain shall meet.
The one reservation here would be with the finale. It’s not as satisfying or as fitting as you would perhaps hope, but, as with the pub crawl, it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey, and this journey is one of the most enjoyable you’ll see on screen all year.
Film length: 1hr 49mins – Feels like: 1hr 45mins